MPs and celebrities come together to Make Time for Tea at the House of Commons

The House of Commons was lively with MPs, celebrities, health professionals and women personally affected by cancer yesterday, as they gathered to Make Time for Tea and kick off Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in style with a slice of cake and cup of tea.

Over 7,300 women are diagnosed with ovarian cancer every year in the UK, and 4,100 women dying – the equivalent to 11 women a day – The Eve Appeal is encouraging women across the UK to ‘Think Ovarian Cancer’ during Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

Sharon Hodgson, MP for Washington and Sunderland West and Chair of the APPG on Ovarian Cancer, hosted the event on and in introducing the event to assembled guests, she said: “These brutal statistics need to change – and that’s why I am urging women across the UK to raise vital funds to continue The Eve Appeal’s pioneering research into early detection and prevention. It is a great initiative and could make all the difference to women’s lives living with ovarian cancer.”

Parliamentarians from across the parties turned out to show their support, mingling with stars from the stage and screen including Coronation Street star Nigel Havers, Birds of a Feather actress and Strictly Come Dancing star Lesley Joseph, comedienne Helen Lederer and TV medic, Dr Christian Jessen.

Guests in attendance heard from Becky Smith, daughter of the late Eve advocate Sarah Smith, as she recounted her Mum’s speech at the House of Commons, in the same spot just 12 months later – calling on MPs to take action and go back to their constituencies and workplaces to demonstrate that they are doing what they can to save their constituents and the NHS from the avoidable and terrible costs of ovarian cancer.

They also heard from Alison Dagul, who has personal experience of both breast and ovarian cancer. She shared the story of her diagnosis and the need for women to be aware of the common symptoms associated with ovarian cancer as well as BRCA gene mutations. She was passed down the BRCA gene mutation by her elderly father, which increased her risk of breast and ovarian cancer, and subsequently was the likely cause of her diagnoses. Sadly, Alison has also passed down the gene mutation to her daughter Gabby, who has since had a double-mastectomy and will undergo a hysterectomy once she has completed her family.

Alison Dagul, said: “I always presumed, incorrectly, that the BRCA gene mutation was passed down the maternal side of the family, but can be passed down via the paternal side of the family too. It was this gene mutation which caused both my cancers.

“I hope that prevention, risk-prediction and early diagnosis research will progress so that no one will have to endure the awful treatment I personally have had to experience, and which my family are witnessing.”

Athena Lamnisos, Chief Executive of The Eve Appeal said: “Talking openly is a powerful tool. It is our vision that through raising awareness and funding pioneering research we can begin to make a difference. Ovarian cancer really is a disease that needs all the help it can get, as survival rates are low, treatment options are limited and diagnosis often comes too late. The signs, symptoms and risk factors are too-little known, often stigmatised and not talked about enough and that is why it is so vital that we encourage women to speak openly about ovarian cancer during Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

“March is a golden opportunity to emphasise the devastating nature of the disease and spread the message about the key signs and symptoms of ovarian cancer. So let’s all do something today that can change this. Let’s open up about ovarian cancer, both for women of today and for women in the future.”

Make Time for Tea parties will be taking place throughout the UK during Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month in March to help raise vital funds and awareness for The Eve Appeal. Anyone can host a tea party, and will receive a fabulous Vintage Vogue Apron pattern when they register for their free fundraising pack by visiting www.eveappeal.org.uk/tea or by calling 020 7605 0100.